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ICYMI: Samoa Agreement: Reps demand suspension as NBA faults same-sex allegation

The Nigerian Bar Association, on Tuesday, defended the Federal Government’s endorsement of the Samoa Agreement, declaring it contained no clause on same-sex marriage.

President of the NBA, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), waded into the controversy surrounding the pact as the House of Representatives asked the Federal Government to suspend the implementation of the agreement signed by the country on June 28, 2024.

The lawmakers also resolved to investigate the agreement.

Named after the Pacific island nation of Samoa, where it was signed on November 15, 2023, by the European Union and its member states and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, the agreement serves as the new legal framework for the EU relations with 79 countries, comprising 48 African, 16 Caribbean and 15 Pacific countries.

The agreement aims to strengthen the capacity of the EU and the ACP countries to address global challenges together.

It lays down common principles and covers the following six priority areas: democracy and human rights; sustainable economic growth and development; climate change human and social development; peace and security and migration and mobility.

Other areas covered in the agreement include human and social development,  access to social services, education, health, food security and improved nutrition, water, sanitation services and housing, social cohesion and protection, population and development, women development and involvement of youths in the implementation of policies affecting them.

The partnership also covered decent work, demography, culture and sustainable development, cultural diversity and mutual understanding, cultural heritage and creative sectors, mobilisation of sustainable and responsible investment, investment facilitation and protection and other critical areas.

Last week, a national daily (not The PUNCH) alleged that the agreement contained a clause to legalise Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer relationships in Nigeria, adding that the government agreed to support same-sex relationships to obtain a $150bn loan.

But the allegation was stoutly refuted by the Minister of Information, Mohammed Idris, and the Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Abubakar Bagudu, at a press conference in Abuja, on Saturday.

Idris threatened to drag the newspaper to court and before the Ombudsman.

Bagudu debunked that the agreement contained an LGBTQ clause, stating that the partnership with the EU seeks to resolve peculiar issues of each region based on universally accepted international laws, conventions and treaties applicable to the parties.

He said, “The partnership between Nigeria and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States dates back to the Georgetown Agreement of 1975, which brought together countries in Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific for the establishment of a framework for trade and development cooperation with the European Union as one of its objectives.

“The OACPS – EU Cotonou Agreement facilitated the commitment of about €1.7bn in grant aid alone to Nigeria through the 9th, 10th and 11th European Development Fund during the period from 2000 – 2020.

“A recent survey shows that over 5,000 water, sanitation, energy, education, health and other micro-project interventions were executed in about 4,800 communities in Nigeria throughout the Agreement.’’

However, clarifying the terms of the pact, the NBA president, in a statement, noted that the Samoa Agreement recognises Nigeria’s Same-sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2023, insisting that it was made based on local laws.

He added that the NBA was part of the committee that vetted and evaluated the agreement, adding that if the alleged clauses were included, the association would have advised the Federal Government against it.

The statement read, “In the signing of the Samoa Agreement, the Hon. Minister of Budget and Economic Planning requested the NBA, as a major stakeholder in the polity, to look at the agreement.

“Consequently, I constituted a committee chaired by Mr Olawale Fapohunda, (SAN), former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Ekiti State and Chairman of the NBA Law Reform Committee, to vet, evaluate and advise on the agreement, accordingly.

NBA’s stand

“The Samoa Agreement is a broad legal framework between the European Union member states and more than half of the 79 members of the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States.

“It is meant to serve as a basis upon which subsequent specific agreements can be negotiated between the European Union and the Federal Government, its sub-nationals and/or the private sector.

“The agreement covers six main areas, namely: democracy and human rights, sustainable economic growth and development, climate change, human and social development, peace and security, and migration and mobility.’’

Maikyau explained that his attention was drawn to the erroneous publication of the agreement, particularly, the purported same-sex clause.

He added, ‘My attention was drawn to publications in newspapers and social media platforms, to reactions by some Nigerians to the signing of the Samoa Agreement by the Federal Government; the alleged clauses in the agreement requiring Nigeria to endorse or accept LGBTQ rights, as a pre-condition to access an alleged loan facility to the tune of $150bn.

“Contrary to the narrative being propagated, either due to ignorance of the content of the agreement or, a deliberate intention to mislead the public (neither of which is good), I wish to state that there is no provision in the Samoa Agreement which requires Nigeria to accept or in any way recognise LGBTQ or gay rights, either as a pre-condition for a loan of $150bn or at all.


“Instead, the agreement was expressly made subject to the local laws and the sovereignty of the contracting nations. That is to say, the Samoa agreement recognises, for instance, Nigeria’s Same-sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2023 and of course, the Supremacy of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).’’

“If this were not the case, the NBA would have since advised the Federal Government not to enter or engage in any form of partnership or agreement that can undermine the sovereignty of our nation in any way.

“For the avoidance of any doubt, the Samoa Agreement does not, in any way, seek to compromise our existing legislations nor undermine the sovereignty of Nigeria,” the statement affirmed.

Mikyau urged the stakeholders to educate the public on the true contents of the agreement.

According to him, the negative narratives of the agreement were being pushed and propagated along very sensitive lines of faith, culture and morality, and thus, there is a need for caution and proper education.

He also called on the Federal Government to continue with the public enlightenment already being undertaken to counter the negative perception being promoted against the agreement.

Reps demand suspension

But seeking further clarity on the issue, the House of Representatives, on Tuesday, urged the Federal Government to suspend the implementation of the Samoa Agreement over the alleged LGBTQ clause.

The chamber directed its Committee on National Planning to investigate the agreement within four weeks and report back for further legislative action.

The House resolution was a sequel to a motion of urgent public importance brought on the floor of the green chamber by the Deputy Minority Leader, Aliyu Madaki and 87 others during plenary.

Following the adoption of the motion, the House called on the Federal Government to “Suspend the implementation of the Samoa Agreement until all controversial clauses are clearly defined to make sure they do not violate any law in Nigeria.”

It also mandated the Committees on National Planning and Economic, Development, Justice, Treaties, Protocol and Agreements to interface and report back to the House within four weeks.

In his argument in favour of the motion, Madaki said the House was concerned that “The agreement allegedly has some clauses that compel underdeveloped and developing nations to support the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community as a condition for getting financial and other supports from advanced societies.’’

He stated, “The House is concerned that Article 97 of the Agreement, which states that, ‘No treaty, convention, agreement or arrangement of any kind between one or more member-states of Europe and one or more OACPS members shall impede the implementation of this agreement, is supremacy clause, and thus violates Nigeria’s sovereignty.

“We are worried that some other articles, especially Articles 25, 29.5, 36.2, and 88 in the Samoa Agreement that was signed by the Federal Government may be inimical to the interest of Nigeria as a country and the values of our people as a whole  and more so,  it does not contain a reservation clause.”

According to him, “Article 2.5 states that parties shall systematically promote a gender perspective and ensure that gender equality is mainstreamed across all countries

“Gender equality, as reported, is a Trojan horse for deceptively bringing in all sorts of immorality to our country, as gender no longer means two sexes-male and female, as traditionally understood. It now includes homosexualism, lesbianism, transgenderism and animalism.’’

“The House is worried that the signing of such an agreement with the aforementioned clauses, if true, violates our sovereignty and is a clear contravention of section 7 of the 1999 constitution as amended,” he added, stressing that “The Federal Government may have signed the agreement without exhaustive consultations and consideration for possible long-term consequences.’’

Contributing to the debate on the motion, the Majority Leader, Julius Ihonvbere, said, “I think the public has been misled on this. Let me state that there is no portion of the agreement that is on LGBTQ. If you have it, bring it here.

“In fact, three ministers have come out, including the Minister of Information and Budget and Planning, to say that there is nothing like that in the agreement and that it was never mentioned. It was never mentioned, and there is nothing like lesbian rights in the agreement.’’

On his part, the member representing Aba North/Aba South Federal Constituency, Abia State, Ikwechegh Alexander, argued that certain clauses in the accord are at variance with the nation’s values and culture, saying, “We are Africans, not Westerners. We have our way of life and way of doing things.”

The Minority Leader, Kingsley Chinda, sued for restraint, saying, “I will caution that we should not be judgmental in our argument. It is clear that when the Federal Government is going into any agreement, by section 12 of the 1999 constitution, the parliament ought to be carried along.

“If the parliament had been carried along, this argument would not have come up because Nigerians would have been better informed. The problem is the lack of information. As parliament, we want to be satisfied that what the government told Nigerians is true. That is all we are arguing for.”

The Presidency could not be reached for comment on the House resolution.

The Presidential spokesman, Bayo Onanuga, was unavailable for reaction as calls to his phone rang out. He had yet to respond to a message as of press time.

Punch

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